Collectively there is more music than ever before, but less is being listened to. In a world of exponentially growing noise, ‘attention’ as an asset becomes harder and harder to obtain. That being said, it is still entirely possible to cut through the noise and be rewarded the attention you rightfully deserve.
6 Viral Music Marketing Strategies That Still Work Today
1. The mini-documentary
Shoegaze rockers ‘Nothing’ released a 6-part mini documentary which shed light on not only the frontman’s arduous upbringing in Philadelphia, but also the highly controversial drama surrounding the label that the album was supposed to be released on.
Essentially they found out that the label was being funded my Martin Shkreli, who was under fire for buying out the rights to a popular AIDS medication and raising its price from US$13.50 to USD$750 overnight.
A story as controversial as Nothing’s is probably going to be hard to top, but that shouldn’t deter you from sharing yours.
If you have an interesting backstory to share, whether it’s about the collective story of your band, or an individual member, consider making a mini-documentary about it. Fans always enjoy connecting to the band through a deeper level, and what better way is there to bring your story to life than through video?
2. Pattern disruption: do a gig in an unusual setting
Looking for a venue for your next music/live performance video that you can use to promote your music online? Rooftops, construction sites, cinemas, offices, train stations, trams — the possibilities are endless.
A big part of cutting through the noise and creating shareable content is to be daring.
‘A Red Trolley Show’ is an award-winning web series where their entire concept is to get artists to perform live in a San Diego tram. This one video performance of Aaron Evans feat. Generik’s “We All Work” gained over a million views alone.
What’s interesting about this is that the audience is unsuspecting of the performance, and that makes for an interesting experience for both the viewer and performer. As a result, these videos are much more shareable than one of you doing a performance video in your bedroom.
Have a think about what you could do in your own city to break the mould in terms of performing in unconventional spaces.
3. Audience Hijacking
This is an interesting one, and a memorable one because it happened near the street I used to live on.
There is a festival that happens yearly called ‘Newtown Festival’, which celebrates the music culture and arts scene that the inner-west of Sydney has to offer. It happens yearly in a famous park called Camperdown Park, which is surrounded by neighbourhood townhouses that overlook the festival. Because it’s situated so closely to surrounding residents, it’s not uncommon to see people open up their garages, lawns and backyards to essentially become an ‘unofficial’ part of the festival.
After two years of being rejected from being on the lineup of the Newtown Festival, the band Sticky Fingers took matters into their own hands and set up their own renegade stage in their friend’s backyard which directly faced the park.
Sticky Fingers were a relatively unknown band, but the stunt actually catalyzed a lot of the band’s initial success. Despite their application to play at Newtown Festival being rejected twice, the organizers were so impressed with their tenacity that they were called on to headline the following year’s Newtown Festival.Landing the prime spot on the main stage of the subsequent Newtown Festival linked them up with legendary Australian producer, Dan Hume happened to also be at the festival. Dan Hume would later go on to producing their next 3 albums.
Crazy how one bold move can set the wheels in motion and potentially launch your musical career into stardom.
4. Break (or attempt) a world record
As a music PR stunt, Damian Keyes (Welsh musician, teacher and founder of Brighton Institute of Modern Music set out to break the world record for ‘most number of guitar pedals in one sound while still sounding audible’. They got all their students to bring in as many pedals as they could, patched them all up, turned them all on one by one and then proceeded to play the ‘Iron Man’ riff in front of the panel of judges.
Despite them not breaking the world record, they received an extraordinary amount of press from it and in that regard was a huge win for them.
Years later, Damian Keyes revisited the idea to set up the ‘loudest guitar in the world’. Him and a band, Gallows, set up an obscene amount of amplifiers in a soundproof room and succeeded in breaking the world record.
The great thing about this technique is you don’t actually need to break the record to gain attention. Just the act of doing it is almost certain to gain you exposure and publicity.
Definitely check out Damian Keyes’ Youtube channel if you’re looking for some great information on how to market your music. This guy is a goldmine of information and an authority on the subject.
Fun fact: The guitar sound was measured at 132.5 decibels, 30 metres away from the amps. Guinness has since stopped this world record as it was regarded as too much of a public safety risk.
5. The charity benefit gig
Charity benefit gigs have been an effective PR tool across all industries for quite some time now. I wouldn’t say it’s ‘easy’, but partnering up with a charity to support their cause can be a quick way to gain exposure to people who have never heard your music before.
Whichever charity you decide to team up with the support, ensure that it’s a cause you genuinely care about. People aren’t stupid, and are quick to catch on if you don’t appear genuine, or execute the campaign in a way that just screams ‘cash grab’.
Here are a few tips…
Ensure the charity’s legitimacy by meeting them in person and participating in some of their programs.
Ensure there is an easy and clear way for people to donate.
Ensure your fanbase has a good understanding of where their money is going, and why you intend to support the cause.
Collaborate with other local musicians who would also like to participate.
Offer prizes and giveaways to help incentivize participation.
Ahead of the release of their upcoming sixth studio album, ‘Amo’, Bring Me The Horizon launched a rather unconventional marketing campaign.
A number of these cryptic billboards, posters and flyers were put up across the U.K., and featured very little besides the line “do you wanna start a cult with me?” accompanied with the band’s new logo, a date and a mysterious phone number.
If you rang the number, it took you to a pre-recorded message of a church organ and some rather unsettling lifestyle advice. Sinister sounds and heavy breathing follow before the recording finishes and you are then booted off the call.
The campaign incorporated all the ingredients to go viral. It not only caught the attention of fans, but also the media, which in turn brought in a wave of brand new listeners as well.
Check out this video from ‘The Punk Rock MBA’ for an in-depth breakdown of the marketing stunt. There’s a lot to unpack here, and a great case study on how to effectively promote your next single or album.
Regardless of how effective your viral campaign might be, none of these techniques will work if your song/EP/album sucks. Before even considering any sort of marketing strategy, make sure you are confident that your music deserves the success it does.